Politics & Government

Appeals court upholds voting order, dealing another setback for Kobach

File photo

A federal appeals court has upheld an order blocking Secretary of State Kris Kobach from requiring voters to show proof of citizenship if they register to vote at the DMV.

Federal Judge Julie Robinson ordered Kobach in May to register these voters under the federal Motor Voter Act, but he appealed that decision.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit issued an order Friday night affirming the earlier decision, saying that the National Voting Rights Act preempts the Kansas proof of citizenship requirement and that “no constitutional doubt arises as to whether the NVRA precludes Kansas from enforcing its voter qualifications.”

It’s the latest legal setback for Kobach, who served as the state’s attorney in the case and championed the proof-of-citizenship policy as a way to prevent voter fraud.

The order removes any lingering doubt about whether the nearly 19,000 Kansans who have registered to vote at the DMV without providing proof of citizenship will be able to vote in the Nov. 8 general election.

Kobach was set to appear in Robinson’s courtroom for a contempt hearing Friday, but that was canceled after the secretary of state struck an agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the plaintiffs in the case.

Under that agreement, local election officials will have to send out letters informing all of the voters affected by the case that they have the right to vote in federal, state and local elections this November.

“The Court of Appeals’ decision will ensure that thousands of Kansans stay on the voter rolls,” Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement Friday night. “It is Secretary Kobach’s duty to give these voters proper notice of their rights, and to ensure that they can participate in November. We hope that further court intervention will be unnecessary to ensure that he fulfills that obligation.”

Bryan Lowry: 785-296-3006, @BryanLowry3